Baby bok choy is a staple leafy vegetable for many Chinese families. Interestingly, it has many names in China. In northern China, it’s often referred to as baby “you cai” (小油菜), whereas in the South, it’s called Shanghai greens (青江菜). Outside of China, it’s commonly referred to as baby bok choy.
This leafy vegetable has an hourglass shape. Each plant is made up with several spoon shaped lush green leaves along with white or light green stalks. There are several varieties. The smaller the size, the more tender and sweet. The most delicious part is the inner heart. When stir fried, baby bok choy has a mild flavor. And just like many leafy greens, it does have a subtle peppery kick, especially to people who are not used to eating this vegetable.
For my in-laws, they make stir fried baby bok choy almost every other day if not every day. My mother-in-law even said if my father-in-law does not have baby bok choy at least every other day, he would not feel normal. This just shows how deep-rooted baby bok choy is in many Chinese diets.
You can find baby bok choy in many non-Asian grocery stores these days. Go for the smaller versions if you can. But the larger ones do not taste too different. You just need to cut them into smaller chunks.
You don’t need fancy sauces to cook baby bok choy. In fact, in Asia, many leafy greens are cooked with minimum condiments to preserve their natural flavors. Sometimes just a teaspoon of salt is all that’s required. Simply heat up some vegetable oil, add a bit of chopped garlic or green onions, then add the baby bok choy, some salt, and stir fry for about 5 minutes until the baby bok choy is cooked through.
In today’s recipe, I’m adding shiitake mushrooms to add more umami and to spice things up a bit. Traditionally, dried shiitake mushrooms are often stir fried together with baby bok choy, but I find fresh shiitake mushrooms more convenient and more widely available nowadays.
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serving: 2-4 people family style
- 0.5 pound (8 oz or 225 g) of baby bok choy
- a couple (about 6 oz or 170 g) of fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1 green onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt)
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Thoroughly wash the baby bok choy by immersing in cold water for about 5 minutes. Use your hands to break off the outer leaves until only the inter heart is left. Breaking off the outer leaves helps wash off any dirt left on the leaves and makes it easier to cook the leaves through. Alternatively, you can cut all the baby bok choys in half lengthwise and then rinse and drain a few times to wash off the dirt.
- Clean the shitake mushrooms with a brush or slightly damped paper towel to remove any dirt (I learned from Iron Chef to never clean mushrooms in water). Remove the stem with a kitchen knife (as depicted). Then cut the cap into 1/3 inch (~1 cm) thick slices.
- Chop the green onion and garlic cloves in small pieces.
- Set the stove to medium-high and add the 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a skillet. When the oil is getting warm but not hot, add the green onion and garlic pieces.
- Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shiitake mushroom pieces, then baby bok choy, stirring to coat evenly with the vegetable oil. Add the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon of table salt), stirring to combine for about 2 minutes. Then add the 1 tablespoon of water and ¼ teaspoon sugar, stirring for about another 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat, season with more salt if desired. Transfer to a plate.